Think Outside
The Box

HGTV’s Design Star is down to four finalists and the competition is really heating up. One of our favorite finalists, Mark Diaz, opens up with us about creating functional and beautiful living spaces. Read below as he walks us through conceptualizing your own fabulous living space, as well as shares some valuable design tips.

Mark - Design Star

Mark, who grew up in a large Cuban/Italian family, says he always had a natural knack for design. With a self-described passion for edgy, modern styles, he runs his own successful design firm in Miami, Florida. Here are Mark's thoughts on getting a feel for what you already love about your home. Plus, six tips that are worthy additions to anyone's design repertoire.

First things first

Open a bottle of wine, put on your favorite stay-at-home music and get comfortable. Simply start walking around your home as if you were visiting a friends house and start looking at what you like/ love about the actual space. Forget all the furniture and accessories. Try and understand how the overall space makes you feel. Then don't be afraid with what you come up with, simply take in all the information, all the emotions and all the memories, if any. Take a deep breath and allow your mind to dream big. Allow yourself to play and have fun. It's your home, so there is no exact way it should look.

1Primary rule of thumb - either hide it or enhance it

If you have let's say a column in the room or a funny alcove that doesn't quite make sense -- do your best to choose. If you decide to hide the element, hide it completely so no one will ever know it was there. If you cannot, then enhance it so it becomes something special instead of an eyesore.

2Promote intimacy

Let your space and your furniture breathe -- get the furniture off the walls. If you have a really big space take advantage of it and bring the elements closer to the center of the room so to promote intimacy. If it's inviting people will sit and converse all day, if your seating is distant so will be your company.

3Artistic focal points

View your room/space as a series of over-sized Vignettes. Think about how you can create artistic focal points throughout the room. This will draw in the eye and allow people and yourself to always remain interested.

4Display who you are

It's your place you can do and be whoever you want. Allow your imagination to go wild. If your room keeps you interested everyday it will blow away your guests.

5Let there be light

Play with multiple light sources. Allow yourself to have a multitude of lighting options for the vast variety of moods you have or want to create. Mix it up -- sconce, floor, table, and decorative accent lighting all in one room. My personal preference in the light bulb department is 40-watt incandescent filament bulbs. They provide a warm light that's perfect for an intimate evening at home. And always remember dimmers are your friends -- put them on all your lighting sources.

6Ask questions

Finally, I ask myself lots of questions about the spaces I design. Here are a few you can ask yourself when designing your space: 

  • Would I photograph this room?
  • If I did, is there anything I would add to the picture? If so add it!
  • What do I want to feel in this space? What do I want my guest to experience?
  • Is there anything I absolutely have to have in this space?
  • Is there anything in my space that has to go. If so dump it.

In the end, love whatever you do and know it will be a representation of you -- live your dreams and love your life!

Catch more from Mark and the remaining contestants on Design Star Mondays at 9pm on HGTV.

More expert home design tips

Design challenge: Playing with pattern
All about wall art
Trend alert: White-on-white

Photos courtesy of HGTV

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